The Gift of Life
Donating a kidney to a person in need is truly a life saving gift. Any prospective donor is going to have a lot of questions, each unique to themselves. Our goal is to focus on educating the public and those considering donation.
Who Can be a Donor?
Any person between the ages of 18 – 65 years old can be screened as a potential donor. There is a lot more than age that goes into donation however and there will be a lot of tests to determine a potential donors health and any risks they may face from donation. In addition, every transplant hospital has their own set of rules and standards when it comes to the age of the donor.
What are the Risks?
Living donors are screened and multiple tests are run to ensure the potential donor is in good health and therefore the risks to donors are minimal. Any surgery has risks involved and there are risks of infection after surgery but this is the same with any type of surgery including plastic surgery. According to research there are minimal long term negative affects to living donors post surgery. A person can live a productful and healthy life with a single kidney.
Steps to Becoming a Donor:
Speak with the recipient’s hospital’s transplant department. The recipient may have a phone number for the hospital, if not suggest to them to reach out to their dialysis center or nephrologist.
Get blood drawn. This will show if you are a good blood match by testing the antigens in your blood against the recipients. While blood type is the most important factor in making a direct donation, there are some other elements that they will want to look at. If you are not a blood match, you can ask the transplant department about their paired exchange programs. Many times more lives are saved through the paired exchange program than a direct donation.
Talk to a Social Worker. If the donor is a good match, the hospital will assign them a social worker. The social worker is completely separate from the potential recipient and has no contact with them. This social worker is the donors advocate solely and they are there to ensure that the donor is comfortable and free of any pressures.
Be available for further tests. There will be more tests needed in order to ensure that a donor is in good health and has good kidney health. These can include urine and further blood tests, EKGs, a pet scan of the kidneys, lung x-rays, a colonoscopy, a pap smear. A donor can find more information on what tests to expect by talking to the hospital or social worker assigned team as every medical center may require different tests and tests vary depending on age and gender.
Once these steps have been completed and a person is certain that they want to donate, a transplant date will be scheduled and barring any medical issues arising, the donation can take place. A donor may back out of the surgery at any point, even the day of the surgery.
What to Expect Post Donation
A donor can expect to stay in the hospital 1-3 days. Pain is managed with medicine and the donor will be sent home with a prescription for pain medicine and perhaps a stool softener. It is encouraged that donors walk around and be mobile during their recovery. Driving is prohibited while on pain medication and donors are asked not to drive for two weeks post surgery. Heavy lifting (over 10 pounds) for six weeks is also prohibited. In general most donors are back to work and regular life within a month, some sooner and some longer.
What are the Long Term Effects?
There is no evidence that donors are at any increased risk for kidney disease post donation or that a donors life expectancy is lessened. There have been no findings that indicate kidney donation leads to any long term negative consequences. It is important to lead a healthy lifestyle before and after surgery. If there are any concerns about a donors health and eating habits, they should be discussed before and after surgery.